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Top criminal chambers boosts pupillage award from £16k to £40k

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London set bucks downward pay trend

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A London-based criminal chambers has upped its pay by more than double.

High end criminal set 6KBW College Hill has increased its pupillage award from £16,000 to a staggering £40,000 — an increase of 150%.

For the first six months, the lucky pupil will be given a grant of £20,000. In the second six months, he or she will have a guaranteed minimum income of £20,000. Pupils can also expect to earn around £8,000 in excess of this.

With many pupillage awards at publicly funded sets languishing at the minimum of £12,000, it’s unusual for a criminal set to up its pay so drastically. Public perceptions of the criminal bar have taken a nosedive in the wake of intense public sector cuts, with the viability of a career as a criminal barrister thrown into doubt.

Indeed, a host of publicly funded sets have scaled back their pupillages — or ditched them altogether. Meanwhile, baby criminal barristers are increasingly feeling the squeeze as they struggle to scrape by on earnings not far off the minimum wage, and in some cases below it.

6KBW is, however, hardly a standard criminal set. Drawing in the cream of the criminal work — which is often corporate crime — barristers and pupils also take on extradition, public law, and civil law cases.

The set’s pupillage award increase echoes a wider picture of small, exclusively criminal sets struggling to make ends meet, while other more varied sets with a high proportion of silks thrive. 13 of 6KBW’s 46 barristers, it is worth noting, are QCs.

In a statement, 6KBW said:

We are delighted to announce that, following a review, the pupillage award at 6KBW College Hill for 2017 will increase to £40,000. Funding will consist of a grant of £20,000 in the first six, plus guaranteed minimum income of £20,000 in the second six. The system of guaranteed minimum income means that pupils keep what they earn, but if their income falls below a certain level in any month, chambers will make up the shortfall. We hope that this step will encourage applicants to 6KBW College Hill from the widest possible range of backgrounds.

Applications for 2017 pupillage at 6KBW open in the spring.

27 Comments

Not Amused

I think we need a convention whereby 2nd six earnings aren’t used in the total. Sets can then explain the detail of their cleverly devised extra bits – but the headline figure should be limited to the actual award.

What does ‘guaranteed minimum earnings’ mean? Will the pupil sue his/her set if they bill less? How would that help their tenancy prospects? Will the billed amount actually be paid? When will it be paid? ‘Make up the shortfall’ is that after tax and NI?

This is a £20,000 award with a bit of smoke and mirrors. I’m just not sure how helpful to young people the smoke and mirrors aspect really is. If crime has a pay crisis (and it does) is it morally right to entice youngsters in by massaging the reality of that crisis at graduate level?

Once a criminal set is picked you have almost no chance of trying to move areas at say 3rd six stage – so these decisions have fundamentally life changing impacts and being absolutely clear would seem to me to be the best approach. I’m not sure how comfortable I am with headline awards accompanied by masses of small print.

(10)(23)

Anonymous

What rubbish.

Guaranteed earnings are incredibly common. In this case, if a pupil doesn’t receive £3,300 (net of VAT) in any given month then chambers will give top-up the difference. It isn’t ‘guaranteed billings’ (for obvious reasons that would create cashflow problems), it means actual cash in the bank. If a pupil gets more than £3,300 in any given month the pupil keeps the difference (without paying chambers rates on it).

Most sets where pupils undertake a significant amount of their own work in second six use guaranteed earnings. The sets that don’t are the sets where a pupil won’t do a significant amount of their own work in their second six.

(27)(0)

Anonymous

“The system of guaranteed minimum income means that pupils keep what they earn, but if their income falls below a certain level in any month, chambers will make up the shortfall.”

(3)(0)

Anob

“The system of guaranteed minimum income means that pupils keep what they earn, but if their income falls below a certain level in any month, chambers will make up the shortfall.”

nqb

(1)(0)

Maud Stone

Your question sounds like you haven’t been through pupillage yourself. Can’t you cast you mind back to those heady days many years ago in your second six and answer your own question? You did actually go through that stage didn’t you?

(2)(0)

The Bar Necessities

What rubbish.

Guaranteed earnings are incredibly common. In this case, if a pupil doesn’t receive £3,300 (net of VAT) in any given month then chambers will give top-up the difference. It isn’t ‘guaranteed billings’ (for obvious reasons that would create cashflow problems), it means actual cash in the bank. If a pupil gets more than £3,300 in any given month the pupil keeps the difference (without paying chambers rates on it).

Most sets where pupils undertake a significant amount of their own work in second six use guaranteed earnings. The sets that don’t are the sets where a pupil won’t do a significant amount of their own work in their second six.

(0)(0)

Awards

25 Bedford Row increased their award from £18k to £30k two years ago.

(4)(0)

Not Amused

Another set with lots of small print.

I just think there should be an objective standard so that headline figures can be compared. In my view only the actual award should form the headline number. Surely one useful thing that one of the many incompetent regulators could do is to recommend that.

This all becomes a very circular argument without some actual standards. I say “kids might be mislead”. So these sets say “surely not they are bright kids”. So I say “why are you presenting the figures in this way then?”.

I don’t think it is too much to ask to only include actual cash awards in headline rates. You can add in detail of the ‘extras’ later.

(0)(5)

The Bar Necessities

Why does it matter?

If set A offers a pupillage award of say £50,000 as there is no prospect of pupil A getting paid for any of their own work then Pupil A gets £50,000.

If set B offers a pupillage award of £25,000 in first six and £25,000 guaranteed earnings in second six, Pupil B still gets £50,000 regardless of whether s/he gets that £25,000 in second six from cases s/he does or direct from chambers.

What matters—at least from the perspective of the regulator—is how much money pupils A and B have in their bank accounts in those six months. And perhaps, at least to pupil B, the knowledge there will be the start of a survivable cashflow in year 1.

I’m not sure who would benefit from making it appear that pupils who actually undertake their own work in second six (and get paid for it) are worse off than pupils who don’t. Not least, because on any rational assessment, the pupil who had a busy second-six and enters tenancy with some aged debt will be appreciably better off than the pupil who followed their supervisor around and thus has no money coming in.

I don’t think anyone has ever been misled by the concept of ‘guaranteed earnings’…

(5)(0)

Not Amused

“I don’t think anyone has ever been misled by the concept of ‘guaranteed earnings’…”

Well you just have, so there’s at least 1.

“If set A offers a pupillage award of say £50,000 as there is no prospect of pupil [working]”

How would you know? Because there is no convention, many sets where pupils earn in the 2nd six simply don’t bother to mention that fact. I am arguing for a convention because the current situation is confusing.

“What matters—at least from the perspective of the regulator”

I wouldn’t presume those people had a perspective.

“I’m not sure who would benefit from making it appear that pupils who actually undertake their own work in second six (and get paid for it) are worse off than pupils who don’t”

See, you instantly adopted a binary position. There are sets with awards who do not mention earnings in 2nd six, but where there are earnings.

” the pupil who had a busy second-six and enters tenancy with some aged debt will be appreciably better off than the pupil who followed their supervisor around and thus has no money coming in.”

This is so binary as to be risible. A jobbing crim pupil is by no logical standard better off than a pupil at a top commercial set – even if the commercial pupil happened to not do any work in his/her 2nd six and the crim pupil’s diary was full.

All I want is an objectively clear system. To my mind that means leaving ‘guarantees’ (which are not obviously worth anything) out of the headline figure. I do not understand why a set would want to include them in the headline figure. Being clear and helpful so that young people can make informed decisions without having to wade through small print or try to guess factors they cannot possibly know is not to my mind a ridiculous thing to aim for.

(1)(9)

Anonymous

Surely what matters is pupils being able to see the amount they’ll have in their account at the end of pupillage so they know whether they can afford to accept it? Which would include the guarantee amount.

(1)(1)

The Bar Necessities

Of course these aren’t binary propositions, but setting up a dichotomy makes the point more obvious. Realistically, from a financial perspective, there are three situations:
1. Sets where there is a policy of the second-six pupil doing no work
2. Sets where a second-six pupil may do some work, but where monthly receipts are unpredictable.
3. Sets where the second-six pupil will definitely work, and where by the end of the second six the pupil will to be receiving more every month than the pupillage award.

Provided any set offering guaranteed earnings actually pays them, I really can’t see the problem. If set A says ‘you will get at least £3,000/month in second-six, either from receipts or directly from us’, I cannot see how that is worse for the pupil than at set B who say ‘you will get £3,000 a month from us, and perhaps a bit more if you get paid for a hearing or two’.

Both can budget on the basis of £3,000 a month income and be happy if they get any more. It all seems remarkable simple…

(3)(0)

The Bar Necessities

Also ‘working’ is not synonymous with ‘getting paid for said work’. In reality, ‘working’ is often synonymous with ‘not getting paid for many months’.

On which note, I’m off to court…

(6)(0)

Anonymous

You guys really need to get jobs

(15)(0)

Ununamused

This isn’t really that confusing – you just have to read the policy for the set that you’re applying to. It’s all very well for Not Amused to pontificate that the ‘kids may be misled’, but actually all it comes down to is reading and understanding documents – a necessary skill for your practice in any event.

If you can’t be arsed or don’t want to read the policies, then more fool you. If that’s the case, you shouldn’t be doing this job in any event.

(8)(0)

Anonymous

Someone likes to use ‘…in any event’.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

Goodness me Not Amused, your capacity to be an unmitigated arse really does seem to know no bounds. The concept of guaranteed earnings really isn’t difficult to understand and doesn’t come with pages of small print to wade through. It’s explained rather succinctly by 6KBW (and others) and all but the most cretinously stupid can probably cope with a sentence or two by way of explanation.

Contrary to your sweeping statement, the guarantees are worth something. They let the prospective pupil know exactly how much they will receive each month.

(7)(0)

Not Amused

*sigh*

Dear Applicants to the Bar,

You would do well to ignore the arrogance of this commenter. As you know, contracts and contractual terms can vary. Words which appear to have a defined meaning can be used in different contexts by different users. In the absence of action by the regulator therefore, the nature of the ‘guarantee’ can change depending on which set you are applying to.

Be aware that there are not two categories of set (those where you work in 2nd six, those where you don’t) or even 3 categories of set. Each set is different and a good interview question is “how much work did your pupils do in their second six last year?” (unless you know the set’s policy doesn’t allow work). Do not assume that just because a set doesn’t mention 2nd six earnings that there will be none.

Indeed assume nothing. Always read the small print. Always investigate any proposed award fully.

And know that there are some practitioners out there who wish your task of comparing sets could be easier and who are uncomfortable with current practices.

(1)(8)

Anonymous

Out of interest, has anyone found an example of guaranteed earnings meaning anything other than a guaranteed minimum amount per month in your 2nd six?

Or any other term used by chambers when describing their pupillage award?

Is Not Amused onto something here or not?

(1)(0)

Anonymous

The real question is why, if this set has been collaring ‘the cream’ of criminal work, it is only now paying it’s pupils a decent award.

No windfall for the 2016 intake either!

(0)(0)

A Practising Barrister

I’m surprised that the concept of “guaranteed earnings” in second six has provoked such controversy here.

You will find that nearly ALL chambers pupillage awards work on this basis, and that it is a common sense way of doing it.

(5)(0)

Anonymous

Not Amused:

I think you’re creating a problem where none exists.

Are you aware of any specific examples where a pupil has been misled or otherwise treated badly by a Chambers in relation to a ‘guaranteed earnings’ clause.

If not, then I suggest you are making a mountain out of a non-existent and theoretical mole-hill.

(9)(0)

Not Amused

There is a general woolly-ness around what the phrase guaranteed means in each case. Sets use the phrase to mean different ideas (note the 2013 wording for 6kbw quoted below).

All I am saying, much to the apparent outrage of the professionally outraged, is that that ambiguity is potentially dangerous for applicants and wannabe pupils.

I do remember pupillage. I therefore also worry about how likely a pupil is to complain. But right now we have a system where headline figures include 1) ‘expected’ earnings, 2) guarenteed as an unenforceable promise earnings and 3) genuinely guaranteed earnings (or any variation of the three on a set by set basis).

That is not an obviously helpful system. All I am calling for is a restriction of headlines rates to actual cash paid. If sets want to suggest more money is earned, let them do it in the small print – where details can be fully explained.

I am surprised at the consternation. As a member of the Bar I do not want even the mildest hint of anyone being mislead. The change I propose is hardly onerous and I note there are sets now which act in the way I think would be best practice.

(4)(2)

Anonymous

I believe that you are correct on this issue, ie that headline rates quoted can be misleading, and I think this is deliberately so. But I also believe that there cannot be many (if any) pupils that would be surprised by this by the time they got around to applying (let alone having interviews or being offered pupillage) and still fewer that aren’t just glad to have pupillage rather than wanting to make a fuss about the details of the offer.

However, there should be some standard way of dealing with the advertising of these awards. After all, a £40,000 award (which could have the additional benefit of earnings in the second six) could be a very different proposition to a £20,000 award with a £20,000 earnings guarantee.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

So…….you don’t have any examples of this not working in practice then?

Well that certainly supports the position of those of who find the concept of ‘guaranteed earnings’ perfectly clear and understandable and simply don’t see what the potential problem could be.

(6)(0)

Pantman

6KBW has had an award of £31,000 since at least 2013:

http://www.indx.co.uk/pupilbase/?mode=detail&id=636830303437

You can verify this by clicking the links through to the Gateway (for 2013 and 2014).

“We offer three 12-month pupillages funded at £31,000. This consists of a £16,000 grant, plus second six earnings which we expect to be in the region of £15,000.”

(3)(0)

Simon Myerson

We’ve taken 2 criminal pupils this year (plus one civil). That reflects increased earnings across Chambers. We’re a small set (36) of whom 6 are in silk.

The article may be right about London. If it is suggesting that, generally, there is “a wider picture of small, exclusively criminal sets struggling to make ends meet, while other more varied sets with a high proportion of silks thrive”, it’s simply wrong.

(0)(0)

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